Do's and Don'ts When Teaching ESL Online for the First Time

Rachel Weiss
Career China Digital Marketing Manager
Feb 7, 2020
online esl teacher 1

Welcome to the online teaching world! If it it’s your first time teaching online, you may have some questions about how to connect with students and be the best online teacher you can be. Here are some do’s and don’t’s that will help you get started teaching online.


1. Do Research – You’re Not Alone!

You’re not the only one teaching online! Teaching ESL online is a big industry worldwide, and there are many other people now teaching English online. Because of this, there are many resources and websites to help you. No matter if you’re a new teacher starting from the beginning or you’re an experienced teaching looking for fresh online games and activities, there are many places to find resources for teaching online. You can find plenty of online flashcards, games, and programs made for use in your lesson, and also watch other teachers’ demos to get more ideas.

Check out these great websites for more resources:

If you’re looking for a great online teaching company, check out VIPX.

2. Use the Technology You Have

Computer? Check. Internet connection? Check. Webcam? Check. You’re pretty much there! You will probably need a microphone or headset as well to help with the audio, but as long as you have these basics, you’re ready to go.

3. Smile and Have Positive Energy in Your Online Lesson

Because you’re teaching from behind a computer screen, you need to make sure your energy and positivity comes through to your student. Creating a fun learning environment and energy will you’re your student feel more comfortable and help build their confidence. Also, if you’re teaching young students who have never had a foreign teacher before, you want to put them at ease and make them feel comfortable. Just because you’re teaching from behind a computer screen, it doesn’t mean you can’t create a bond!

4. Know Your Online Teaching Platform

There are many different online teaching platforms and programs used to teach ESL and connect you with students. It’s important to know your platform and be familiar with its tools before the lesson starts, so that you can best utilize the platform in lessons. Many programs have fun games and activities and special features included for you to use with your students.

5. Create a Quiet and Comfortable Teaching Space

When you teach online from home, it is important you have a quiet work area. Many teachers set up a "mini-classroom" area inside their house, which is a quiet space where they can set their computer up. You can set up a nice background or colorful map behind you, or stand next to a shelf with books and a globe to add some fun to your teaching area. Add your personality to it, without it being too distracting for the student. Whether you sit or stand is up to you, just make sure you can teach comfortably.

6. Be Professional and Prepared Before Your Online Lesson Starts

Make sure you have prepped your lessons beforehand and gathered all necessary teaching materials. This way you don't have to scramble during your lesson. It's also important to present yourself in a professional way. You don't need to overdress, but make sure you look presentable for teaching and don't show up in your pajamas.

7. Use Extra Visuals and Props in Your Online Lesson

Many ESL teachers use photos, videos, flashcards, puppets, instruments, stuffed animals, and many other items in their lessons to create a fun and interesting lesson. These extra materials don’t have to be overly complicated, but having some visuals will help your student be more engaged with you and your lesson!

8. Make Sure Your Lesson Has a Clear Takeaway

When teaching your students online, it’s important to have a straightforward learning goal. Make sure you focus on the needs of the learner and that they can grasp this objective during the lesson.


1. Don’t Stress the First Online Lesson – Get To Know Your Students

If you’re teaching online for the first time, you may feel a bit nervous at the start of the lesson when your student first connects online. The most important thing to accomplish with a first lesson is getting comfortable with each other and assessing your student’s ESL level.

Get to know them by asking simple questions like What’s your name? How old are you? How are you? This lets you evaluate your student’s level and also get to know them better. Keep in mind that your student might be from a very different cultural background or may have never had an English teacher before.

2. Don’t Forget To Check Your Equipment

Make sure to check your microphone placement and headset so that your audio sound is clear. If the audio isn’t working correctly, it might be hard for the student to hear or distracting while teaching a lesson. Also test your computer and Internet connection and before lessons to make sure there are no interruptions or technology fails.

3. Don’t Over Talk

When teaching online, especially for the first time, it can be very easy to over talk during your lessons. Make sure you maximize student talk time and give them plenty of opportunities to talk, whether it’s reading out teaching materials, asking questions, or encouraging longer responses.

4. Don’t Forget About the Time Difference

Often times when you teach online your student will be in a different time zone than you. Make sure you check the times and dates carefully for your schedule so there are no mistakes when arranging your lesson. Also, consider what time it is for your student and adjust your greeting. While it might be evening for your time, it might be morning for them!

Teaching ESL Online for the First Time

At the end of the day, teaching English online is a great way to connect with students, increase your teaching and communication skills, and also earn money. There are many ways to make these lessons fun, engaging, and informative.

Interesting in teaching ESL? Check out our available positions now.

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